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Healthcare utilization and costs for musculoskeletal disorders in Ontario, Canada


Objective — To examine the magnitude and costs of ambulatory primary and specialist physician care and hospital service use for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in Canada's largest province, Ontario.

Methods — Administrative health databases were analyzed for fiscal year 2013-2014 for adults 18+ years, including data on physician services, emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations. ICD diagnostic codes were used to identify MSD services. A validated algorithm was used to estimate direct medical costs. Person visit rates and numbers of persons and visits were tabulated by care setting, age and sex, and physician specialty. Data were examined for all MSDs combined as well as specific diagnostic groupings.

Results — Overall, 3.1 million adult Ontarians (28.5%) made 8 million outpatient physician visits associated with MSDs. These included 5.6 million primary care visits. MSDs accounted for 560,000, 12.3%, of all adult ED visits. Total costs for MSD-related care were $1.6 billion, with 12.6% of costs attributed to primary care, 9.2% to specialist care, 8.6% to ED care, 8.5% to day surgery and 61.2% of total costs associated with inpatient hospitalizations. Costs due to arthritis accounted for 40% of total MSD care costs ($639 million). MSD-related imaging costs were $169 million. Including these costs yields a total estimate of $1.8 billion for all MSDs combined.

Conclusion — MSDs place a significant and costly burden on the healthcare system. Health system planning needs to consider the large and escalating demand for care to reduce both the individual and population burden.



Power JD, Perruccio AV, Paterson JM, Canizares M, Veillette C, Coyte PC, Badley EM, Mahomed NN, Rampersaud YJ. J Rheumatol. 2022; 49(7):740-7. Epub 2022 Apr 1.

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Contributing ICES Scientists